The weather is heating up. As we get closer to summer, most of us want to dress in cooler, shorter, more revealing clothes.
Unfortunately, this can usher in a season of self-consciousness if your body doesn’t match society’s ideal. It’s this time of year when you’ll see more online comments about certain bodies needing to cover up or even hear rude remarks at the pool or park.
Here’s how to brace yourself against hurtful body shaming and remain comfortable in your own skin this summer.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
You probably have a lot of negative body image ideas in your head. You didn’t put them there. You likely picked them up from advertisements, TV and long-standing cultural norms.
Don’t look to the same unhealthy culture to start sending you positive body image messages instead. Take matters into your own hands and change your self-talk. When you notice that you’re having unkind thoughts about yourself, immediately stop. Tell yourself something nice instead like, “My body isn’t perfect, but I am healthy and strong,” or “I am more than just a body. I have a nice smile, I’m good at my job, and I’m really friendly.” Look for celebrities or public figures that you admire whose bodies look like yours. Remind yourself that you are beautiful, just as you are.
Decide When to Correct and Educate
There are so many people who make thoughtless statements about body image. If you were to stop and correct each time anyone said anything unflattering, you’d be doing so all day. You can choose to address every instance of fat-shaming that you hear if you want, or you can choose to pick your battles wisely. Save your energy and call out only the most offensive statements said by those closest to you.
If a close loved one offends you, you may just want to say something simple like, “That hurt my feelings.” If someone else makes an unkind comment about another person’s body, you can choose to use the opportunity to educate them.
Watch Your Words
Your own words about your body have an impact on a lot of other people, especially if you have children. The young people in your life listen to the words you say. If you say that you look terrible because you’re “so fat,” you’re sending them a message linking weight to looking good.
By insulting yourself out loud, you’re creating an atmosphere in which you allow others to disrespect you as well, and you are teaching them to treat themselves that way, too.
Remove the Link Between Weight and Health
One of the worst aspects about body shaming is that we start to create associations between doing healthful things and losing weight. Sure, exercise and eating fewer processed foods might help us lose weight. But those choices have value even if you never lose a pound.
Choose to get regular exercise and eat nutritious foods, because they’re good for your body and you want to be healthier. Being healthy and being thin are not synonymous; neither are being heavy and unhealthy. Take care of your body, because you want to be around for a long time, not because you want to look different.
Do Things that Celebrate Your Body
Your body is about so much more than its appearance. Choose to do things that make your body feel sexy and powerful. Maybe what makes you feel good is taking a luxurious bath, unwinding at a yoga class, or dancing with the volume turned up.
Similarly, don’t stop yourself from doing things you want to do just because you’re not at the “right” weight. Wear a bikini. Take a pole-dancing class. Go after that big promotion. Waiting until you lose 20 pounds to do what you want to do is just holding you back.
Ads will tell you that you need to work on achieving your perfect “beach body” for summer. Remember, you don’t need a new body to go to the beach. Just put on a swimsuit and go. Cast off self-consciousness and enjoy your summer right now.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address your body image issues and how they may be affecting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT